The peace and tranquility of Shabbat was shattered today by a shooting attack at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As I write this, the community is gathering for a vigil outside of the synagogue. Reports indicate 11 confirmed victims and 12 injured, including police officers involved in the rescue. We send our heartfelt condolences to all affected families and pray for a Refuah Shlema (a speedy recovery) for the injured.
Because of the possibility of a copy-cat attack, our organization activated its alert and awareness system. We informed and spoke with police and authorities across Canada. We asked them to immediately raise their level of vigilance around Jewish institutions and Synagogues. Police were immediately responsive and proactive and will continue supporting our community (as always).
Chief Mark Saunders condemned the incident and advised his force made adjustments to local security. Similarly, we have received word from across the country including Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer who advised his department has instituted patrols around Jewish facilities right away. These sentiments were echoed by York Region police department and Edmonton police departments among others. The incident has also been condemned by Prime Minister JustinTrudeau; Opposition Leader, Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
We thank them all.
In the coming days and weeks, Jewish institutions must increase awareness levels and security as deemed necessary. Unfortunately, there is an uptick in antisemitism and as a consequence, the potential for violence. This affects us in Canada too where in one recent case, Medicine Hat Police arrested a white supremacist and found high powered rifles, ammunition and hate literature.
The Pittsburgh shooter was an antisemite who murdered innocent people because of their faith. He posted antisemitic material online and on his social networking pages. We are confronted with these instances day in and day out in multifaceted forms and manifestations – in schools, universities, unions, newsletters, online, etc. We also see antisemites targeting Israel and allowing hatred against Jews to foment that way too. All this requires greater vigilance, tougher hate crime laws and an end to this demonization of the Jewish people.
Thankfully, we all stand together in our condemnation and denunciation of this heinous and heartbreaking act of violence. We should not let this moment pass without thinking about the victims and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, with our American neighbours and all those who strive to make the world a better place.